Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Feeling Out of It at Work? How to Fix It

Overcome disengagement and get more fulfilled in your job.

Our jobs and careers are a huge part of our lives, and being unhappy at work can spill over and affect family life, and our feelings of well-being. Just like any relationship, our jobs can have ups and downs. These can range from minor feelings of disconnection or dissatisfaction, to depression and burnout. So, what can we do to try to re-engage and get more satisfaction out of our jobs?

Search for the Meaning. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees - we get so bogged down in the routine tasks associated with the job that we forget what the job and our career is all about. My schoolteacher friends are dreading the end-of-summer-and-back-to-school part of their jobs, when they should focus on the positive aspects - meeting new students who are eager to learn, the stimulation and challenge of teaching, etc. Step back. Focus on the positive aspects of work and the meaning of your job. Sometimes this is all it takes. [Of course, if you truly believe your job is a "dead end," and that it doesn't provide any or much that is rewarding, then read on.]

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Focus on Accomplishments and Goals. If you are feeling down at work, focus on what you have accomplished. If you are feeling "in a rut," set some challenging goals for yourself. Remember the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life"? Consider what your workplace would be like if you had never been there. Most people make substantial contributions to their jobs - making customers happy, initiating new programs, having good work friendships with colleagues, etc. Sometimes, we don't realize how much we have accomplished, and creating challenging goals allows us to continue to make those contributions.

Restructure Your Job (or Move Up). Sometimes workers become disengaged because they are no longer challenged by their jobs. It has become too routine and there is no challenge. Right now I'm working with our summer internship students, and the biggest complaint is always that they are feeling "underutilized." Their summer positions don't offer them enough challenge or the opportunity to learn, grow, and to show the employer how good they are.

If you are feeling unfulfilled or underutilized, talk to your supervisor. See if there isn't a way to make your job different, more challenging, or more rewarding. If you want to move up, let your supervisor know about your ambition. Good organizations and supervisors want their employees to develop, grow, and become more valuable (and they don't want you to leave!).

OK. What if your job really is a dead end? What if you can't see any real meaning, and you aren't given the opportunity to accomplish good things? Well if that is your conclusion, I need to refer you to an earlier post:

When is it time to quit your job?

Follow me on Twitter:!/ronriggio


Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.


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